Lara Croft isn’t so much a video game star as an entertainment brand. “Tomb Raider” would have been just another mid-1990s platform game if it wasn’t for Lara. It might still have been popular on account of the fact that the original was a very well put-together game, but it’s hard to imagine that it would have gone on to inspire a whole franchise that continues to this day and has escaped the confines of computer games to become a cross-platform entertainment megabrand. Anything with the name “Lara Croft” or “Tomb Raider” on it gets mainstream press attention – and that’s just been proven yet again with the revelation that a long-lost version of a “Tomb Raider” game is finally available to players through the internet.
Depending on how old you are, you may or may not remember the PSP from the early 21st century. For those of you who don’t have memories that go back that far, you might be surprised to hear that PSP didn’t stand for “PlayStation Plus” back then. It stood for “PlayStation Portable,” and it was a miniature version of the PlayStation console that you could carry around in your pocket. The concept of mobile gaming hadn’t yet evolved fully in the early 2000s because smartphones were still a new and developing field of technology, and so people didn’t tend to play games on them. If you wanted to play video games on the move, you needed a portable console to do it. For a fleeting moment, the PlayStation Portable was a viable and popular means of doing so. It’s for this mostly-forgotten platform that the long-lost missing “Tomb Raider” game was developed.
The year was 2006, and Core Design was in the middle of remaking the very first “Tomb Raider” game for the portable format to mark ten years since its release on the PS1. The project had the catchy title “Tomb Raider: 10th Anniversary.” They were about eighty percent of the way through the project when they were told to stop what they were doing. Crystal Dynamics had made an alternative pitch for a cross-platform game called “Tomb Raider: Anniversary” to celebrate the milestone instead, and that idea got official approval even though Core Design’s work was almost complete. Core Design attempted to salvage their work by re-skinning all of the graphics and seeking an official license to turn it into an “Indiana Jones” game, but that plan went down a blind alley, too. The PlayStation Portable turned into a dead format not long after that, and Core Design followed. The company was officially shut down in 2010.
Gavin Rummery, who was in charge of the game while it was still being developed, once mentioned that the game was complete enough to be playable and might be made available one day – a prospect that excited die-hard “Tomb Raider” fans, but years passed and nothing happened. By 2020 most people had probably forgotten that it ever existed at all. Here at the start of 2021, though, it’s come back in from out of the cold. The whole game has been shared by somebody – nobody knows who – on the “Internet Archive” website and can be downloaded and played. It’s not the easiest job to make it run on your PC – you’ll need Visual Studio to be running, a viable controller to play it with, and a specialized patch that can also be found on the website, but once that’s done, it should run just fine. If you’re going to download it, though, please note that it’s incomplete. Not every level that exists in the first “Tomb Raider” exists in the game, and there are no enemies to fight against. That makes it impossible to complete the game, but it’s still fun to run around it for a while in the name of nostalgia. The website hosting the game says it reached out to the presumed copyright holders multiple times to notify them of their intent to share it and offering them the chance to object, but having received no response, they went ahead. The unfinished game is, therefore, presented free of charge.
If getting a little “Tomb Raider” action for free appeals to you, this old PSP game isn’t the only way you can get it. “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” is one of this month’s free games for PlayStation Plus subscribers and will remain available until February 1st. “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” is the most recent game in the long-running series and attracted rave reviews when it was first released in 2018. It’s technically the twelfth sequential game in the ‘main’ “Tomb Raider” series, although the idea of continuity and canon in the “Tomb Raider” saga went out of the window a long time ago. What’s more important is that it’s a great game, and this is an excellent opportunity to get your hands on it free of charge if you don’t own it already.
The fact that this story made such big waves on the internet when it is, at heart, a story about a very old and partially-broken portable version of the original “Tomb Raider” confirms what we said at the start. Lara Croft could drive interest in almost anything. There’s an online slots game called “Lara Croft: Temples and Tombs” that doesn’t even feature the “Tomb Raider” name, and yet thousands of people play it at online slots websites like Rose Slots every month. In fact, there are so many people who are happy to spend money on “Tomb Raider” online slots that there are a further two slots that actually do come with the official company branding. Whether it’s a movie, a fifteen-year-old video game made for a failed format, or an online slots game, “Tomb Raider” is every bit the money maker today as it was during the 1990s. At some point in the near future, we’ll have more news on the next “Tomb Raider” movie and the next game in the “Tomb Raider” video game series – and we’ll bring that news to you right here, just as we always do. Thanks for reading!